This week, Manthan caught up with the prolific IoT writer and Founder of IoT Weekly News, Justin Grammens. Currently an adjunct professor at the University of Saint Thomas, Justin is also the founder of Recursive Awesome an IoT data analytics company and co-founder of IoTFuse, a non-profit to help advance the Internet of Things.
MANTHAN: You mentioned your favourite IoT product in our round-up interview last month. Can you share a few more products (either out or coming soon) that you think are exciting?
JUSTIN: There’s a number of great ones listed on the IoT Weekly News Kickstarter List. Then there’s Flarean, a company aspiring to create public light-messaging systems for cities and other civic entities.
MANTHAN: Do you agree that businesses and the B2B companies seem to be adapting IoT faster than consumers? What do you think is driving this trend?
JUSTIN: Absolutely. I tell companies that I consult with through my company, Recursive Awesome that the IoT for consumers falls into the “nice to have” solution, where as for B2B companies it’s a “must have” solution. The real ROI that we as an industry can position for the consumer today is small in comparison to B2B. I’m certain that as we start collecting more data and visibility into consumer based applications, things will change and there will be an explosion of applications and interest in consumer IoT, but today, it’s hands down that the B2B market is adapting faster than consumers.
MANTHAN: What key change (policy, trend or technology) do you feel needs to happen for IoT to be adopted faster?
JUSTIN: Standardization on a set of communication protocols is a key place where companies need to come together and help to build common infrastructure. Many have started using Zigbee for their solutions, but we are seeing that communication method is not secure and wasn’t built to be used in the way we are building new products today.
Additionally, it’s not only the wireless spectrum, but you have many forms of data silos with lock-in from each platform trying to capture as much market share as they can with your data. Initiatives like AllJoyn and Open Connectivity along with Thread are ways to help devices from different manufacturers communicate and will be key to creating a network that gives the power to the user. Once devices and data are connected, new products and services will be developed and you’ll see adoption increase.
MANTHAN: What is the one piece of advice you would give companies looking to get into developing IoT products?
JUSTIN: Make sure you have a grasp on the security aspects of your products. A number of high profile companies have been hit recently with bad press around their security protocols. If consumers lose trust in your applications, they will leave and never return. From the first day, you need to be mindful of keeping their data and your platform secure and safe.
And while I’m not a fan of over optimizing, you should be aware to some level, the amount of effort it will require to take your product to the masses. Not only from a deployment standpoint, but literally from an electrical, mechanical and industrial engineering standpoint. It’s a totally different ballgame when it comes to developing hundreds of thousands of devices. You need to be aware of the skill-sets, teams and expertise that is required and is something I have consulted companies through on many occasions.
“Security is stopping people who shouldn’t be seeing your data from accessing it. Privacy is giving access to just those who should be seeing your data, the appropriate level of access.”
MANTHAN: Outside of data security, what potential risks do you perceive in a connected world?
JUSTIN: This is a great question. I teach in my IoT class that Security and Privacy are actually two different beasts. Security is stopping people who shouldn’t be seeing your data from accessing it. Privacy is giving the access to just those who should be seeing your data, the appropriate level of access. Privacy is going to be a huge risk in the future of a connected world. Users will need to have the ability to give certain entities access to only certain aspects of their data, but then give a different level of access to others. This I believe will pose a significant problem in the near future as systems will need to be rewritten to allow for this more granular level of access.
Outside of privacy, a huge problem are what I called earlier – “data silos”. Each cloud base platform keeps its own copy of data in their own system. Sometimes these system have good APIs to access the data and do what you need. However in most cases they do not. Therefore, data you store in one platform becomes difficult or sometimes impossible to retrieve in a meaningful way to help you in the connected world. If the data is not accessible, this defeats the purpose of the devices that are connected and ultimately slows adoption of the Internet of Things. Services like IFTTT try and help in this regard, but even they are very limited in ways if the device you want to connect and control doesn’t have an API.
“If the data is not accessible, this defeats the purpose of the devices that are connected and ultimately slows adoption of the Internet of Things.”
MATHAN: Which industry do you think will be impacted the most by widespread consumer IoT adoption?
JUSTIN: Wow. It’s hard to decide. There are literally so many. In my current consulting engagements, I’m talking with business in the areas of Agriculture, Retail, Healthcare and Industrial. I think there’s a huge opportunity right now in building upon the M2M applications that have already made their way into factories around automation. Processing plants have been connected for many years and have control and automation systems that give them much of monitoring that the IoT provide.
What is different today with the IoT over M2M, is the data sets and the wider range of data collection that is possible. When many of these systems were originally deployed, the scope of the data that was collected was on a factory by factory basis. Today, Internet protocols are now being extended outside the factory and is opening up a number of different Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) applications that build a whole new layer of technology that was not conceived of 20-30 years ago.
MANTHAN: Could you give us an example of how big data and advanced analytics, will be key industry drivers for IoT?
JUSTIN: Imagine if you could see not only electronic data, but PHYSICAL data of your business in real-time? As a business, this is what the IoT promises. In this next wave of computing, a business might get a report on the number of products it shipped, the quality of that product and the components that went into that product. However, now they can track the product after it leaves the manufacturing plant and see how it interacts and is used in the field by their customers.
What we are talking about today is the ability to see this data in real-time and adjust accordingly. Tesla’s automated suspension is one example of this. Devices now aren’t stuck being programmed one time at the factory and then never updated. They now are able to have new software pushed to them and be smart enabled to adjust in real-time.